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Tuesday, February 1, 2011


There is an ancient therapeutic art that predates Yoga, Tai Chi and certainly the medical philosophy of Galen. Its origin is shrouded in prehistory but is rediscovered by every generation. It may not even be a human invention because animals and insects practice it as a general thing. Even plants organize seasonal frenzies of it. It is called waiting.

Consider the specimen pictured above. In the background we can make out an orange extension cord where he has been running a saw. There is evidence also that he has been splitting logs with sledge and wedge. There is a battered yellow wheelbarrow with nothing in it. This means he's in the middle of a chore. Why is he sitting down? He is waiting.

Notice the traditional posture --gloves in hand, sitting forward, marginally alert expression. Notice also the official, all-weather waiting exercise machine he sits on, and over which he demonstrates such mastery. Obviously a skilled practitioner. He is waiting until he feels like going back to work. That could take a while, so let us examine the history of this discipline.

When we don't feel well, we get medicine. Medical science, as we know it, has advanced to quite a complicated thing, commensurate with the increasing complexity of disease. But there was a time when the only communicable distemper was fleas. The treatment was waiting, waiting until they went away or until one got used to them. And there was, we can be historically certain, even a time before that.

It was during that distant golden age the therapy was practiced and perfected for its own sake. One withdrew from the challenges of primordial life by sitting down and waiting until one's spouse came out taking snapshots and asking where the firewood is. Careful attention to this essay provides a reply of unimpeachable authority.

The therapy discussed here has existed longer and adapted itself more universally to modern medicine than any other. You will not find space devoted to later methods --aerobics, acupuncture, meditation, massage-- of spiritual and physical therapy in all medical establishments, but by golly you'll find a waiting room.


  1. Geo., this is perfect! In fact, without my knowing it, it is what I've been waiting for! Now I can just hand this out to those pesky people who occasionally ask me, "What are you waiting for?" I'm waiting for nothing; waiting is an end in itself, not a mere distraction from "higher" activities!

    BTW, I'd like to forward this--and the URL for the large version of this excellent photo--to my list (or, if you want, you do it...when you're not waiting) and also to my "Over and Under 70s" tribe on Lemme know! I'm waiting....

  2. Obrigado Bravo! waiting is redundant too but obviously must be done anyway.


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